Summary of The 2010 Tax Act

To summarize, the 2010 Tax Act makes significant estate and gift tax changes.  Almost every estate plan needs to be rewritten immediately.  The key points discussed above in the blog series include the following:

  • The estate tax exclusion amount increase to $5 million per person for 2010 through 2012.
  • The gift tax is reunified with the estate tax, and up to $5 million in lifetime gifts will be exempt (over and above the annual gift tax exclusion of $13,000 per donor for every donee each year).  Taxable gifts would be taxed at a top rate of 35 percent.  One would certainly have to make a very large gift to fall into the taxable range.
  • The maximum estate and gift tax rate is reduced from the 55 percent maximum rate under prior law to a maximum estate and gift tax rate of 35 percent for 2011 and 2012.
  • A “portability” provision is included, which allows surviving spouses to use any applicable exclusion amount that is not used by the first spouse to pass away.  This is not only true of very large estates, but also of those smaller estate plans that were drafted when the exemption was smaller and credit shelter trusts and outright bequests were drafted with maximum language.  The net result when such documents are interpreted under the new rules would be to pass entire estates into credit shelter trusts and not provide for other beneficiaries, perhaps not even for spouses.
  • The GST exemption amount is increased to $5 million for 2010 through 2012.
  • The Act sunsets at the end of 2012, thus making the foregoing changes temporary in nature.

As always, we recommend that clients review their estate plans periodically and/or whenever a significant life event occurs (e.g., birth of a child, death of a spouse, purchase of new home, etc.).

For clients with substantial amounts of wealth and with closely held businesses, we highly recommend that such clients consider using lifetime gifts to take advantage of the current $5 million lifetime gift tax applicable exclusion amount, which will expire absent further Congressional action at the end of 2012.

As more becomes known about this Act, we will be available to discuss it further.  If we can be of assistance to you in the area of income tax or estate/gift tax planning, or, if you have any questions or wish to discuss your estate plan in light of the Act, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Please call our office at (818) 501-5800 at your earliest convenience, and we will gladly schedule time to meet with you and review your estate planning documents.  In some cases, no changes will be required.  In others, we will recommend changes.  We cannot know, in advance, whether your documents will require changes to best take advantage of the current state of the estate tax law until we have a chance to review your documents with you.

Nonetheless, we strongly believe that it is important that your estate planning documents produce the result you want.

Start reading from the beginning of this blog series on the 2010 Tax Act:

Important Estate Tax Aspects of the 2010 Tax Act (the “Act”)

Alternative Minimum Tax: The Effect on Itemized Deductions

 

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This is also part of third section of  Anker Reed HSC’s blog series entitled “To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate? That is the Question” regarding the alternative minimum tax and its effect on medical and miscellaneous itemized deductions.

An additional issue with regard to the deductibility of both medical and miscellaneous itemized deductions is the imposition of the Alternative Minimum Tax. “Congress enacted the alternative minimum tax (AMT) in 1969 to make wealthy taxpayers pay their fair share instead of using tax shelters and other means to reduce, or even eliminate, their federal tax liability.” (Kern, 1999). “The alternative minimum tax generally can be described as a flat tax rate which is imposed on a broader income base than the taxable income yardstick used for the regular corporate tax.” (Lind, supra note 11 at 15).  “The tax is designed to ensure that all taxpayers pay at least a minimum amount of taxes.” (Blacks Law Dictionary, 1990). “Without the alternative minimum tax, some of these taxpayers might be able to escape income taxation entirely. In essence, the AMT functions as a recapture mechanism, reclaiming some of the tax breaks primarily available to high-income taxpayers, and represents an attempt to maintain tax equity.” (Commerce Clearing House, 1999).

The AMT is paid in addition to any other income tax imposed and calculated as the excess of the tentative minimum tax for the taxable year over the regular tax for the taxable year. The definition for tentative minimum tax, though, depends on the status of the taxpayer, whether noncorporate or corporate. The tentative minimum tax for the noncorporate taxpayer is the sum of 26% of so much of the taxable excess as does not exceed $175,000 plus 28% of so much of the taxable excess as exceeds $175,000. The Internal Revenue Code also provides for tax exemption status, evidencing the congressional intent of taxing the high-income taxpayers. If the taxpayer’s taxable income does not exceed $45,000 for taxpayers filing a joint return, $33,750 for the individual taxpayer, or $22,500 for the married taxpayer filing separately, the taxpayer is exempt from alternative minimum tax treatment. This means that, depending on the individual taxpayer, there could be an exemption from AMT for the lower income brackets. After the $33,750 exemption, the next $175,000 will be taxed at a rate of 26%. Taxable income exceeding this will be taxed at 28%. At the corporate level, the first $40,000 of taxable income is exempt from AMT treatment.

As previously discussed, the PSC will have little or no taxable income as a result of “zeroing-out.” Therefore, no discussion of corporate AMT is necessary.

When analyzing the application of AMT to the noncorporate taxpayer, the focus of the discussion turns to the medical and miscellaneous itemized deductions. For Regular Income Tax (“RIT”) purposes, medical expenses are deductible when they exceed 7.5% of adjusted gross income (“AGI“). For AMT purposes, medical expenses are deductible only when they exceed 10% of AGI. With regard to miscellaneous deductions, the difference between RIT and AMT is even more conspicuous. For RIT purposes, miscellaneous itemized deductions (specifically unreimbursed employee business expenses) are deductible to the extent they exceed 2% of AGI. Under AMT, however, miscellaneous itemized deductions are not allowed. This is significant since an employee working in a noncorporate structure will be considered an employee for whom she provides services.

Therefore, any business expenses she incurs will be considered unreimbursed employee business expenses, shown as miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% of AGI limitation and rendered non-deductible for AMT purposes. Under the PSC, these business expenses escape both the RIT limitation and the AMT exclusion.

* For specific inquiries regarding a business legal matter that you may have, you are welcome to visit our Tax Attorney in Los Angeles.

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The Tax Benefits of Incorporation to the Entertainer (Part 1)

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This is the second section of Anker Reed HSC’s blog series entitled “To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate? That is the Question” regarding the tax benefits of incorporation to the entertainer.

“In general, the tax benefits available to loan-out corporations compare favorably with those available to individuals under their two unincorporated alternatives:

  1. providing services as a direct employee of the unrelated party consuming the services
  2. providing services as a sole proprietor

“(La France, 1995)

The concepts employed to determine a corporation’s tax liability are the same broad principles of gross income, deductions, assignment of income, timing, and characterization of the income employed by the individual taxpayer. Taxable income is gross income less certain authorized deductions. Gross income is all income from whatever source derived. Internal Revenue Code § 61 provides a non-exclusive list of sources of income which qualify as gross income under that section, including compensation for services, gains derived from dealings in property interest, and dividends.

From gross income, deductions are made if specifically allowed by the Internal Revenue Code as properly deductible. Such deductions include those ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business, deductions on interest paid during the taxable year and ordinary and necessary expenses paid or incurred during the taxable year for the production of income.

* For specific inquiries regarding a tax planning legal matter that you may have, you are welcome to visit our Los Angeles Tax Planning Attorney services page.

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To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate? THAT is the Question (Part 6)

This is part 6 of Anker Reed HSC’s blog series entitled “To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate? That is the Question”.

The tax implications for an LLC (limited liability corporation) are identical to that of a partnership. ” For federal income tax purposes, the LLC is not a separate taxpaying entity and is not subject to tax at the entity level. Instead, the LLC’s members report their respective distributive shares of LLC income, gain, loss, and deduction and credit on their individual federal income tax returns.” (Continuing Education of the Bar of California, 1999)

The tax treatment of an LLC by the state of California may also be problematic to the entertainer. Whereas the LLC and partnership will pay the same annual franchise tax that a corporation pays ($800), an LLC will be charged, pursuant to California Revenue & Taxation Code § 17942(a)-(b), an additional fee if there is net income exceeding $250,000. The additional fee is specified in the California Revenue and Tax Code and provides for the fee to be graduated at specified levels of income. Taking our earlier example of the partnership that has $1,000,000o taxable income, should this partnership be an LLC, there would be an additional fee of $5,190 assessed.

Other popular business entities include sole proprietorships, general partnerships, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships. It is not important that we analyze each of these entities with regard to the tax effects. What is important, though, is that we note that over time these entities have been regarded as being inappropriate for application to the entertainer. For example, the sole proprietorship provides no tax benefit insofar as taxes are assessed on the sole proprietor at the individual rate.

Furthermore, the purpose of this blog series is to assess the benefits and detriments of incorporation to the entertainer. An examination of all of the business entities and their utility to the entertainer would be of no use, for attorneys and accountants have long-held that an entertainer’s decision is solely whether to incorporate or remain a non-taxpayer. Therefore, the main consideration will be whether incorporation is beneficial to the entertainer as taxpayer.

* For specific inquiries regarding a business legal matter that you may have, you are welcome to visit our Los Angeles Business Attorney services page.

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To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate? THAT is the Question (Part 4)

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This is part 4 of Anker Reed HSC’s blog series entitled “To Incorporate or Not to Incorporate? That is the Question”.

“The desire to avoid employee classification, and to obtain the benefits of the corporate form and independent contractor status, often motivates workers to create an employee loan-out corporation.” (La France, 1995)

Primarily, though, an entertainer will be considering the formation of a business entity for the purpose of creating a more beneficial tax structure. By filtering income through a business entity and with proper Tax Planning advice, different tax advantages arise. Yet, the structures of a limited liability company (“LLC“) and a partnership will not provide the desired tax benefit to an entertainer.

A partnership includes a syndicate, group, pool, joint venture, or other unincorporated organization through or by means of which any business, financial operation, or venture is carried on, and which is not, within the meaning of this title, a corporation or a trust or estate.

* For specific inquiries regarding a business legal matter that you may have, you are welcome to visit our Business Organization and Business Formation legal services page.

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